If the web analyst is an author, the dashboard is his/her novel. It tells a story, with critical points in the story up to the interpretation of the readers. And for the best analysts, each reader has seen the story through different perspectives.
Dashboards offer analysts a highly sophisticated tool set for telling a story which infers the intentions, the inclinations, the determination, the compulsion, and the reluctance of the visitors. I'm obviously over-romanticizing the dashboard, but this technology is a critical advancement in understanding how visitors interact with information and function.
While most analytic suites offer comprehensive reporting, dashboards are often created outside of the analytics tool for the following reasons:
- Dashboards often require the integration of data from multiple sources (i.e. CRM, customer support systems, accounting software, etc)
- Dashboards often have better tools for visualizing complex sets of data
- Dashboards often have a better method of distribution of data (i.e. emails, intranets, portals, etc)
Finding the right dashboard platform, building the dashboards, and then implementing an analysis process which integrates the dashboards are significant undertakings (kind of like writing a novel).
Some of the toughest tasks are:
- Exporting the data into a useful format
- Combining the data from individual data sources into a common repository (usually a DB)
- Associating fields from the various data sources (i.e. Customer ID with web site visitor)
- Visualizing the data in a way that enables the viewer to make practical conclusions
It is an effort that requires both analytical skills and artistic senses. While dashboards are typically great at showing what is (and isn't) working on a website, it is difficult to gauge how successful the dashboards are at making an organization more insightful.
There are a lot of great options for dashboard platforms. Some of the tools we enjoy working with are listed here:
Which dashboard platforms do you work with?